Content360 2023
What does Asahi International CMO Grant McKenzie think about creativity?

What does Asahi International CMO Grant McKenzie think about creativity?

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Having a risk-averse culture and short-term focus are the two biggest barriers to creativity, as found by WFA in its research. Grant McKenzie (pictured), Asahi Europe and International's CMO, recognises these challenges and explained that all businesses need to deliver both long and short-term. While this is fairly universally acknowledged, it is seldom practised.

He told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE in an interview that the challenge is that most leaders are incentivised on 12 or a maximum of 36-month cycles. Hence, they tend to focus on immediate pleasure rather than long-term satisfaction.

The marketing team at Asahi always recognises the need to deliver now but talk in the language of marketing science and demonstrate the need to invest in brand building, be it via advertising or sponsorships, McKenzie said. "The value is documented by setting mid-term KPIs and measurements. This shows the business that marketing can be trusted to measure and hold itself accountable," he said, adding:

As our strongest critics, we build internal trust. We give up our pleasures that don't deliver and focus on what matters.

When asked about his definition of creativity, McKenzie said that in business, it means finding a new way to solve a problem or unlock an opportunity. In marketing, it frequently means finding a way to touch people and gain their valuable attention to share the brand story.

"Finding creativity is a mindset. You find it with an open and curious mind and it usually arrives when you didn't ask it to. The more balanced your state of mind, the easier it is for creativity to arrive," he explained.

According to McKenzie, communications creativity is something in his experience that is best left to professionals on the creative agency side, adding:

Keep marketers to the briefing and objective setting.

Aside from being creative, innovation also plays a crucial role in marketing. McKenzie's secret to innovative thinking is to understand consumers and consider how brands can make things better for them. "Look at the barriers or issues and use your imagination to dream of what we might do. Brief the dream and bring internal people on the journey," he said.

Having a diverse team is also important as it ensures that all voices can be heard - from young to old as well as junior to senior. "The most innovative companies are the ones that get the most out of diversity," he said. McKenzie has a wealth of experience working at breweries having helmed marketing leadership positions at SABMiller Spain, Romania, and Czech Republic before joining Asahi in 2018, his LinkedIn said. 

He told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that as a college student, marketing was something he was good at and an aspect that he enjoyed while he was studying for his business studies degree. "Marketing is competitive but artistic and requires an observing eye and ear into human behaviour. This I found fascinating and comfortable to learn," he said. As 2022 draws to a close, McKenzie has two main goals in mind for the upcoming year - growing its premium global brands Asahi SuperDry and Peroni Nastro Azzurro, as well as accelerating its business in non-alcohol beer.

He believes that the trend to watch out for next year is moderation in consumption, it can be less calories or alcohol but also more subtle luxury. According to him, this will be a tough time for many and people will want to be more socially considerate. On the other hand, one trend which McKenzie thinks will die out is brand purpose.

Brand purpose for everything will die out. Some brands in some places don't need it or shouldn't get losts with it. Only where it makes sense for everyone will it remain.

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